by Intern Minister Pippin Whitaker.

Greetings new community! I am your new intern minister, and I will be with you half-time for the next 2 years, September through May. I am also a seminary student at Meadville Lombard Theological School, which is one of two Unitarian Universalist seminaries in the country. I live in Vienna with my spouse, Steve, and our three children, who range in age from 4 to 9. Yes, all this keeps me busy, but what a joyful busy it is!

And what a joy it is to be an intern at UUCF. I have been a Unitarian Universalist by label since I was a pre-teen, but the values and principles of Unitarian Universalism were already part of me before I met a single Unitarian Universalist. I was a young person who loved to ponder the meaning of life and how we should treat one another, and I felt a call to ministry when I was still elementary school-aged. I put it aside because, growing up in Mississippi, with Protestant and Catholic friends and family, I didn’t see a place for me in ministry. I actually thought about being a nun, but I also really wanted kids so that seemed to be a bit of a conflict. I was so glad when we found our first Unitarian Universalist congregation in the ’90s because it gave us the opportunity to live out and develop our faith and hopes for the world in a community of folks who would strive with us. But by that time, I assumed all Unitarian Universalist ministers were men and sans children.

Still I was hooked on Unitarian Universalism from the beginning. Although, I was an infrequent visitor to congregations for several years in college! In graduate school, I rejoined a congregation and began to think deeply about my sense of calling to ministry and what that would look like for me. I first chose the practical application of our principles through social work. (As an aside: it is no coincidence that social work values and ethics are so close to Unitarian Universalist principles. Ask me about that some time!). After getting my master’s and Ph.D. in social work at Florida State University, I joined the faculty of the University of South Carolina for a few years. There I taught classes and contributed to knowledge about how community and social systems perpetuate – or can impede! – violence against people experiencing oppression.

Then finally a light went off in my heart. We do need people developing more knowledge in social work, yes, but my work there was done. I was ready to move on because there is a place where my talents and frailties meet my hopes and fears for this turbulent ball of life we call earth. It is a place where we co-create our deepest longings for this world. And right now that place is here with you.

Once I harnessed my call, I set off to seminary at Meadville Lombard in 2014. I have now completed almost all of my course work. I completed a unit of clinical pastoral education in a combination hospital and congregational setting. Last year, I earned a certificate in congregation-based spiritual direction. I am a candidate for ministry, which is an early part of the process to be a minister in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. And … all of this preparation feels like painting primer on a canvas.

Now, here we go! By being you, you will teach me volumes so that I might bless future congregations with your wisdom. By being me, I hope I bring you at least some piece of the joy I am filled with in this moment. If not that, perhaps some fun-loving amusement along the way! Either way, I am sure that we will create something beautiful together over these next 2 years.

Thank you in advance for being you and for inviting me to be with you!